Frivolous Waste of Time

Sci-fi, fantasy and video games

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

Super Smash Bros for Wii U

Call it a first world problem, but holding out for this game was tough. The 3DS version was so damn enticing, but I knew playing the inferior version first might dampen my excitement for the Wii U game. No criticism intended of the extremely impressive 3DS version, but I knew that the Wii U would be what delivered the true Smash experience for me. Super Smash Bros. is a lot of things to a lot of different people; for some it’s a casual party experience and for some it’s an intense eSport. I fall comfortably in the middle. I need a Smash game to be simple enough that anyone can play but with extra depths to master and Super Smash Bros for Wii U comfortably does that.

Mechanically, Smash Bros hasn’t changed a huge amount. Perhaps it’s just the glossy newness of it all, but I feel that it meshes the best of both worlds from Melee and Brawl. Despite being much maligned, I don’t think that Brawl was a bad game by any stretch. A lot of the new characters were brilliant and I like final smashes, but it was an undeniably sluggish experience compared to the zippy Melee. This new Smash isn’t as fast as that, instead raising the more deliberate style of Brawl to a much more enjoyable speed. The new characters are generally really good as well and fun to play as. Some characters like Rosalina & Luma, Little Mac and Shulk have interesting mechanics of their own to play with, such as Shulk’s ability to switch Monado Arts to buff different stats and Little Mac’s dominance on the ground but uselessness in the air. Although many clones are gone, almost every move set from previous games is back. The only exceptions are Snake and Ice Climbers, which is a shame, but with a roster this size it’s hard to complain. The core gameplay is simply superb, nothing much else to say.

Online multiplayer will be a big draw for many people. Not for me though; Smash Bros. will always be about local multiplayer. The whole thing is as obscenely customisable as ever so you won’t struggle to get your perfect style of game. One minor, but nice, change is that all the stages now have an ‘Omega’ mode, which essentially turns it into a standard Final Destination style level. This is a very nice touch for people who want a stripped back skill based experience when playing Smash but are sick of the Final Destination visuals and music. The Smash Tour mode is a fun diversion, adding a Mario Party-style mode where players circle the board collecting characters and skill buffs which are all put together in the end for a winner-takes-all rumble. I like this mode and will probably come back to it occasionally, but the actual board game part is quite dull, leaving me itching to just get back to regular battles.

One area which left me a little disappointed is the somewhat lacklustre variety in single player modes. The Classic and All Star modes are back and they work fine as a way to get you to grips with the characters. There are also a handful of mini-games and the Master Orders and Crazy Orders, which see you completing a bunch of challenges and then fighting either Master or Crazy Hand. The Event mode is the best single player mode, which sees you completing little challenges, often based around amusing scenarios Nintendo have concocted between the different characters. My biggest issue with this game is the lack of any kind of Adventure or Story Mode. I think we call all agree that Brawl’s Subspace Emissary left a lot to be desired, but I can’t be the only one who felt that it was pretty incredible seeing all these characters come together in a story context. Rather than throwing out the concept entirely, I wish Nintendo had instead worked to make that original concept better. That said, this is a game utterly packed with stuff, so criticising it for what it’s lacking seems unfair. I wasn’t particularly interested in the customisation stuff; I never am in multiplayer games, but some people I’m sure will get a massive kick out of customising their fighters to their hearts content.

After Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8, Nintendo are gaining a reputation for technically astounding releases on the comparatively weak Wii U and Super Smash Bros for Wii U continues that trend. Running at a slick and consistent 60FPS, Smash Wii U is gorgeous and packed with those little details and charms which make Nintendo so special. Everything from the stages to the character animations is perfect. The collectible trophies are compelling fan service, but the absolute highlight of the presentation for me has to be the music. Featuring a cross section of music, some taken straight from the game and some remixed, this game is guaranteed to make me happy. Whether it’s the fantastic Ocarina of Time medley to the uplifting and sweeping music of Super Mario Galaxy, I’m in. There are some goofy choices too, such as Ashley’s Song from Wario Ware and City Escape from Sonic Adventure 2. I pretty much love them all. There are even songs from games which don’t feature in the game; I was pretty thrilled the first time I heard the battle theme from Golden Sun: The Lost Age on one of the Metroid stages. This is the way to do fan service.

There’s much more I could say about this game, but I’ll leave it here. I’ll end this review with a brief story. A friend of mine, my number one fellow Smash enthusiast where I live, was in hospital when this game came out. We’d planned a long night of playing for release day, which didn’t get to happen. I later decided to bring my Wii U to hospital with my Gamecube controller adaptor, and on the Wii U gamepad screen we spent a couple of really good hours playing Smash there in the hospital room. This wouldn’t have been possible on any other console and that is the Nintendo difference.smash-bros-wii-u-release-date-super-smash-bros-4-wii-u-3ds-unlock-all-characters-stages-in-one-hour (1)

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

It’s been a long time since I read The Wise Man’s Fear and I’m still eagerly awaiting the third book in the Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy. I had hoped that The Slow Regard of Silent Things would briefly sate my appetite before the next book, but this spin-off doesn’t really achieve that. It’s not really trying to though and Rothfuss states repeatedly in the introduction and the author’s note at the end that it isn’t trying to. Instead The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a novella length character study and a damn good one at that.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of Auri, the broken young woman Kvothe befriends at the University during the main series. She wakes up one morning in the Underthing, filled with the knowledge that ‘he’ will be visiting in seven days and she must find him a gift. The novella follows a week in Auri’s life in the Underthing as we gain some insights into how her unique and oddly beautiful mind works.

There’s not a whole lot of story to The Slow Regard of Silent Things. This is the kind of project that I might normally find self-indulgent and pretentious, but Rothfuss pulls it off. The closest thing to action is an eight page scene where (spoiler alert!) Auri makes some soap. It’s undeniably compelling though, with the connections to the wider Kingkiller Chronicle being fairly superfluous. This didn’t have to be a story in this world, although I’m glad it is. The writing is really lovely, probably Rothfuss’ best piece of pure prose yet which shows him as a writer who could really do anything.

Auri is the only character in the story and thankfully her brain is a lovely place to spend an hour or two reading. Although she’s clearly broken in some fundamental way, Rothfuss doesn’t present her as a victim. She may lead a lonely and troubled life, but several times throughout the novella she experiences moments of genuine and all-encompassing joy, for reasons that may make no sense to a ‘normal’ person. Auri is a character I liked in the Kingkiller books, but it took The Slow Regard of Silent Things to make her a character I loved.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is an odd little book and one which really doesn’t do what I was expecting, or even hoping, it would do. If you’re wanting something to hold you over until The Doors of Stone, this isn’t it. If you fancy learning a bit more about Auri and spending some time with a delightful character, give it a go.The-Slow-Regard-of-Silent-Things-Destacada

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